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Education The Almighty Buck

Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job 538

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-and-sense dept.
An anonymous reader writes When you think of people who teach at a college, you probably imagine moderately affluent professors with nice houses and cars. All that tuition has to go into competitive salaries, right? Unfortunately, it seems being a college instructor is becoming less and less lucrative, even to the point of poverty. From the article: "Most university-level instructors are ... contingent employees, working on a contract basis year to year or semester to semester. Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5." This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

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  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lgw (121541) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:01PM (#47290057) Journal

    In the "dot com" bubble, many geeks got rich. I've worked with a couple guys over the years who made a million or two in that one. Quite a few math Phds got nice 6-figure jobs for a few years during the finance bubble - nice while it lasted.

    The tuition bubble is far more evil. Students are walking away with ~100k in debt, and no better employment prospects* than they had before. Faculty are getting poorer. It's not like the janitorial staff are getting rich here. It's a bubble based on deceiving children that benefits no workers, only the top of the pile: the most evil bubble in my lifetime.

    *Yeah, sure, a college education can have other benefits besides future salary prospects but that's not how it's sold to high-schoolers and parents! The sales pitch is outright fraud.

  • I just want to know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pooh666 (624584) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:07PM (#47290093)
    Where does the money go? Not generalizations, but accounts. If research is paid for by outsiders, if sports pay for itself, then where is this ever growing cost of education coming from?
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:22PM (#47290139) Homepage

    Basically post-secondary education was marketed really really well.
    So we have more and more post-secondary students.

    This has wide ranging effects.
    A diploma is worth less and less, as everyone has one (we have far more graduates than jobs that call for them).
    A diploma costs more, more demand for a diploma from children means you can charge more.
    And since the job market is flooded with out of work Professors and Master students the mean salary and working conditions for lecturers/professors falls.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:23PM (#47290149) Journal

    If research is paid for by outsiders, if sports pay for itself, then where is this ever growing cost of education coming from?

    1. Sport only pays for itself in a very limited number of institutions. The claim is that somehow the sport gets almuni to gift more money, but I doubt that there are any studies that have investigated this claim.

    2. While the pay of the teachers has been going down, pay for administrators has been going up.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bmo (77928) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:24PM (#47290155)

    Ivory Tower Mentality right here:

    If that leads to a job, great, but that shouldn't be the point.

    6-figure debt makes it the point. A debt that you cannot refinance makes it the point. A debt you can't escape through bankruptcy makes it the point.

    A trillion dollar debt problem in the US makes it the point.

    HR departments requiring a BA for the most menial of office tasks makes it the point.

    Requiring a fucking MA to work in a library as a salaried employee and not a volunteer (the US is the only country I know of that does this) makes it the point.

    But sure, it's /all/ the student's fault for expecting something in return for all that money. /sneer

    I have nothing but contempt for you.

    --
    BMO

  • Re:Oligarch's Game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:29PM (#47290183)

    Evermore, even our education system in the USA is now a "big" business, just like healthcare - this is despicable. Its a disgrace. It's been going on for decades, albeit at a somewhat chelonian pace; and now it's accelerating. Keep on voting GOP and corporate clown Dems... and this result will continue.

    Young people- you must get and vote - save your generation. Mine is lost to the oligarchs.

    There are certainly plenty of schools that now take the "big business" attitude towards higher education. However, don't be melodramatic... There are plenty of Universities in the USA who maintain a more traditional and dedicated academic environment. When I was in high school choosing a college, I did plenty of research on all my options to find the place that would give me the best education and I found that there were plenty of public and private schools that do this. I had an extremely difficult time deciding where to go to college because there were so many good choices in the USA. Yes, some are expensive but they do come in a wide range of prices so anyone can get what they are looking for. I ended up paying more to go to Tufts, but I had a very stimulating and rewarding intellectual experience in both my major and required courses. I even minored in a foreign language, which I never imagined myself ever being interested in doing. Going to college with similar creative and like minded peers has paid dividends in my professional life as well. My high school friends who only went to college with the attitude of getting a piece of paper ended up being the ones who now complain college is pointless and a waste of time. They also seem to be the ones who are stuck in soul less corporate jobs.

  • by Enry (630) <enry@way g a .net> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:41PM (#47290237) Journal

    I've worked in IT at two major East Coast Universities for the past 12 years. There is a boatload of bureaucracy to be sure at almost all levels. Then again, some of it is warranted. Gone are the days of a researcher just getting a grant and spending it all on the research. You need to have grant administrators to make sure the grant is written properly and meets the needs of the funding agency, then you need them afterwards to let you know if you can spend the money you got on the things you want - these grants often times have strict rules on them.

    Then there's all the federal regulations. Are you in a lab that got private (not public) money for doing stem cell research? Awesome! Just make sure that any equipment you use (staff payroll, PCs, consumables, anything) hasn't been paid for by a federal grant. So now you have to buy everything twice and make sure you don't cross the streams.

    Even if you get a $500,000 grant, anywhere up to 2/3 of that goes immediately to the university you work for for overhead. Aforementioned administrators, physical space, power, cooling, IT...hey, so let's talk about IT for a bit.

    So each researcher thinks they're the best thing to ever hit the institution and the way they do things is right. Forget the fact that your IT staff has way more experience and would be happy to help you design whatever you need - they're idiots! So you go off and design your own system and have the grant pay for it, but you ten forget that you don't have any IT staff, so you have a few postdocs take care of it until you realize they're spending all their time working on that and not doing research, so you call up the CIO and yell at him for a while. An IT person shows up and starts identifying problems with your design and why didn't you consult him when you were writing the grant but that's not your concern. So now you're telling the researcher you need a blue Hadoop cluster and you need it right now otherwise you'll take your entire lab across country where their IT staff is apparently more organized than yours. So the IT guy is building the blue Hadoop cluster, burning through IT budget since the CIO promised you they'd take care of it. IT is now underfunded and can't afford the $3 million for a new storage array since every other researcher is doing the exact same thing. But now there's a bigger problem - you ran out of storage space! Where are you supposed to put the 75TB of data you just remembered you needed a postdoc to download? Those stupid IT guys, saying that storage is $.50/GB. I can go to Best Buy and get a 2TB drive for $100! Why can't they just use those drives?

    Hmm...I seem to have gone off on a rant. Anyway, a former director described one location as "land of 1000 CIOs". In a way it's true since it's the researchers that are bringing in money, way more than the students. So the researchers generally get their way or else they'll take off elsewhere and take all that research money with them.

    And where's my blue Hadoop?

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Albanach (527650) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:46PM (#47290257) Homepage

    Administrators care only about getting more students through the door and the tuition dollars rolling in therefrom.

    If you want to quickly solve this problem, have US News add percentage of faculty in full-time tenured position as a weighting factor to school rankings. Overnight you'll see tens of thousands of adjuncts being offered tenure.

    While a simple faculty/student ratio is used there is actually a huge pressure to have the highest number of faculty, and therefore pressure to drive down cost. Quantity is weighted more highly than quality.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:56PM (#47290289)
    I'm a retired chemistry professor from a Major university and was on some committee or other looking into university finances. One striking stat was that the non academic administration used 60% of the total budget. 60%!!!! Nothing could be done about it - the salaries of those folks were locked in by long term contract and many of them had no idea what an institution of higher education was about. These guys were bean counters, fund raisers and politicians but never taught a class, met a student, got a grant or did research in their professional lives yet they made judgements about the faculty competence, salaries and promotions. One of my professor colleagues found that the department secretary was making more than he was and left academia for a government research lab. No wonder universities are filled with temporary teachers having MS degrees making $2,000 per semester per 3 credit hour course. Think about lab instructors making $700 per semester per 3 contact hours teaching per week involving student contact plus time for lab report and quiz and exam grading, weekly staff meetings, and office hours. I wonder if fast food workers, restaurant wait persons, and bar tenders don't make more income in a year.
  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:58PM (#47290301) Homepage

    The fact of the matter is that there are far too many people who want faculty positions compared to the number of available positions. I quote directly from our university president, "I can get professors anywhere."

    This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?

    There is pressure from the administration to buffer grades, as that effects various important statistics for the school, and it's far easier for them to give out As rather than worry about complaints and legal action etc., but otherwise the administration couldn't give a rats arse about how popular the professors are with the students. They care most about how much research money the professor is bringing in. Maybe at some big private school where you have legacies and wealthy donnors to worry about the administration actually cares about the students' feelings.

    No one goes into a professorship expecting a 9-5 job, but pointing out professors are spending extra time with their students isn't really making the case the situtation is detrimental for education, either. When you get your degree, you have a decision -- do I enjoy doing research/teaching so much that I go into academia, or do I want a profitable career and go into industry? Professors aren't in it for the money. They're the sort of people who just wouldn't fit anywhere else. You don't need to pay them well. The professors making $40k tend to work as hard and spend as much time in the lab as the professors making $80k. I'll bet many would work for room and board if you gave them a nice lab to go with it.

    If you want to improve the situation, your options are either establish some legal minimums, or curb the excess of academics by providing either positions for them and/or doing a better job of training people for other positions. Unless you're an engineer, most bachelors degrees are more or less geared toward becoming an academic, even though relatively few people will wind up in academia, and it doesn't help this situation when you have a flood of graduates who aren't really sure what they can do with themselves besides stay in the university environment.

  • by rcoxdav (648172) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:08PM (#47290343)
    The issues with the trades is not pay. Take a look at how much a plumber or electrician can make in the Chicago area. Here [plumberslu130ua.org] is a link showing how much they make. A 5th year apprentice would make about $70k a year working full time.

    The problem is that the trades are totally dismissed by the school counselors. We don't need so many people in traditional colleges. We need more people in the trades. Another example is in lower level IT. Basic help desk and level 1 support people need vocational training, not a BS or BA. We need to re-align higher education.You do not need a BS in CS to maintain a network.
  • Re:Administrators (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thunderclap (972782) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:14PM (#47290367)
    Students don't miss the point of education. They are never told. Most still believe its 4 years of party time with classes inserted. Its the small percentage that go to the trade schools who want a career or go to a college for a big money career who get screwed. Those who go to party are lost already. We are already second century Rome here, only we are our own visagoths.
  • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buybuydandavis (644487) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:38PM (#47290459)

    Medicine, and particularly the Doctor's part in it, is fundamentally an information technology, which would be getting cheaper, faster, better, and more accurate every year but for the state enforced monopolistic shake down.

    Google could replace 80% of doctors with free web app in a year, and a free market in medicine and diagnostics would reduce prices to a tenth of what they're currently.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ekrst (3708713) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:46PM (#47290509)
    I work at a college and I don't believe this. First of all, what most students learn in college is what they should learn in high school. I've met people who went to high school in Germany and France and know more about most things than American college graduates. The problem we have is that pretty much every job requires a college degree and pretty much every education system is underfunded. It's particularly bad in my home state, Pennsylvania, where underfunding of education just might be the issue that gets us a Democrat as governor. At the college where I work, some students get a point of education. Which is basically to be qualified for jobs.When I was a student, such people annoyed me because all I cared about was knowledge itself. But now, I understand and respect their perspective. For example, I proofread the paper of one kid who wrote in response to Plato. Now, he misunderstood what Plato said - but I have to blame the teacher for that, not the student, as his response was appropriate and clever. He responded to the idea that people are of different types - and interpreted it as meaning that a "gold" person is one who comes from influential parents and a "silver" person would come from military parents - whereas of course Plato actually envisioned a world where the children were separated from their parents because birth was not a determinant. Plato was still wrong, of course, because he had children judged far too early, but he never implied it was genetic. But what the student wrote was that he felt he shouldn't be held back just because his mom worked at walmart. Astute and true. Why is he going to college? Probably because he wants something better in his life. Not for reasons of loving knowledge, although it seems he does .. but that's not why. You don't pay that much money just for the love of knowledge. If you did, I'd have about 20 advanced degrees by now (I love coursera ... and udacity ... and all the rest). Our students are not generally partiers. Sure, some are, but most are disadvantaged city kids who want an education. They come to us clueless because Philadelphia schools are absolutely terrible and getting worse by the second. And yes, a lot of them annoy me because they don't seem to care about what they're studying. They ask me for help finding articles and play on their phones while I try to help them. So it goes. They're in it for jobs, not because they care, but ... well ... that's the world we've created. In my opinion we should fix k-12 education so that it's enough for most jobs and should also provide government funded university education, but with higher standards.
  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:37PM (#47290707) Homepage

    I work with two branches of linguistics. The present consensus was essentially reached in the early 1990s, but is still not represented online in freely-available resources: you need access to university holdings. Now, there are sometimes ways for laymen to get access to some of this information (inter-library loan, a JSTOR subscription), but not everyone in North America or Europe is so fortunate, and it would come at such great expense that you are better off establishing some kind of status at a university anyway. Furthermore, so much of the information, whether publically available or limited to universities, is not in English and probably won't be available in English for some years more.

    There were a couple of researchers who thought it would be nice if Wikipedia reflected the state-of-the-art instead of outdated views from half a century ago that dilettantes had put up, but they quickly abandoned Wikipedia after being dissatisfied with its editing climate.

    I've heard the same complaints from fellow academics in fields from anthropology to mathematics. You can keep on thinking you have access to everything you might possibly want, but you simply have no idea how much you are missing.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:39PM (#47290997)

    Don't forget the government. They're the ones that make the loans possible.

    Acch - my bad. Yes. As long as the government is willing to make these insane loans, the Universities will be more than happy to take the money.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by s.petry (762400) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:36PM (#47291173)

    First of all, what most students learn in college is what they should learn in high school.

    This I agree with 100%, Common Core makes things worse. As does pretty much anything a massive bureaucracy gets it's hand on. But in the US, it's not just the Bureaucracy, it's Media. Watch some prime time TV. It is cool to be stupid, and if you are stupid somehow you can make millions of dollars just being stupid (or slutty, or a criminal, etc...). So not only has our education system gone to shit, but Media has helped them drastically.

    The problem we have is that pretty much every job requires a college degree and pretty much every education system is underfunded.

    Wrong on both accounts. First, most jobs don't require a college degree but people have been using that as a measure for some time for people that can succeed. It's wrong, and we need to somehow re-educate employers.

    To the 2nd part, the education system is not underfunded at all. In fact it's over funded to cover all of the bureaucratic positions that Schools and Colleges have been adding for the last couple decades. UC for example has numerous regents who make very high 6 figure salaries to do nothing. There are backups to the backups to the assistants in many schools, meanwhile a professor has their pay cut and are blamed for the woes in funding. Most public schools today have a paid board, where when I was a kid boards were voluntary and made up of parents. So no, there is no funding problem. There is an abuse problem made partially by Government and partially by greed and nepotism.

    But now, I understand and respect their perspective. For example, I proofread the paper of one kid who wrote in response to Plato. Now, he misunderstood what Plato said - but I have to blame the teacher for that, not the student, as his response was appropriate and clever. He responded to the idea that people are of different types - and interpreted it as meaning that a "gold" person is one who comes from influential parents and a "silver" person would come from military parents - whereas of course Plato actually envisioned a world where the children were separated from their parents because birth was not a determinant. Plato was still wrong, of course, because he had children judged far too early, but he never implied it was genetic.

    No offense, but you don't understand Plato either. According to Plato, Socrates stated that the Military (Guardians) would not be able to raise their own children while performing their duties, so THEIR children would be raised by the community. The remainder of society would be raising their children just like we do today.

    Socrates also stated much earlier in "The Republic" that in order to found a Republic you would have to kick all of the adults out of your society because they knew what corruption was and would bring corruption into the newly found Republic. Therefor, the only way to form a Republic in his opinion was to start with all children, educate them in Philosophy, and then a Republic was possible.

    If you want an excellent version of The Republic I can provide one. What we normally see in College Philosophy text books is a gross distortion of the actual "The Republic" (with the exception of The Allegory of the Cave).

    Based on how you write, I'm going to guess that either English is your second language or you are not an Educator at your college.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sandytaru (1158959) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:56PM (#47291231) Journal
    Common Core is being unnecessary vilified by people who don't understand it. All Common Core does is define a base line of standards for all children in all states that adopt it. It says, "This is what a US student should know at each grade level." The methods and curriculum for how to achieve that goal are still left up to the states and local school boards, but the educational companies who supply them with books are not helping them the way they should. Many books incorrectly state they are common core compliant.

    The way it was handled could certainly have been better, but I see nothing wrong with saying all second grades should be able to do basic multiplication and all 7th grades should be able to find the primary theme of a passage of writing.
  • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by datavirtue (1104259) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:16PM (#47291309)

    Funny, study history and you will see that declines last painfully long...everything will still be livable when you die, probably much worse, but liveable. Society is like a complex organism...it can weather a lot of bad health an continue living through tons of adversity. Many of us would like to see then end of a rotting society but the truth is that it will flounder on for many more generations. Maybe the spread of information will harry in a quick death or transformation...who knows. Get some popcorn, and change yourself.

  • by gwolf (26339) <gwolf&gwolf,org> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:41AM (#47291609) Homepage

    ...I find this whole thread really amazing to read, and almost impossible to understand.

    Most countries I know have large, well-reputed public university systems. I happen to work on the largest university of Mexico (and Latin America), UNAM. Tuition? Virtually zero (there is a 1940s law where it stipulates a tuition for this university... It currently sits at MX$0.30, or ~US$0.02 per semester). Most public schools in Mexico have 100% free programs. Not only that, the same situation holds for most of Latin America. And that's for college level ("Licenciatura") — Want to study a Masters or Doctorate degree? In all of the "excellence"-rated programs, you are automatically entitled to receive funding from the government so you don't have to find a way to pay for your life while you work to become a more productive member of society. And yes, we do have private universities, often as expensive as USA-based ones are. But the fields where they excel are usually very different.

    I know this same model exists in most Latin American countries. European states have a somewhat different program, but still, public (government-funded and tuition-free) universities are all but the norm. I just cannot understand how the USA continues to function (some would even say, thrive) under such schemes.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by s.petry (762400) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @02:10AM (#47291803)

    Common Core is being unnecessary vilified by people who don't understand it. All Common Core does is define a base line of standards for all children in all states that adopt it. I

    Poisoning the well, and then show that you don't know a damn thing about Common Core (funny how you threw that accusation at me). No, it's not just standards. It's standards where the materials must come from Common Core as part of the Copyrights you agree to when signing up for the program. Materials that are horribly confusing intentionally, go look at some of the math examples that people are complaining about. Materials by the way, that are very expensive due to copyrights, are not designed or written by educators (and educators have 0 input), and where the material is trying to get your kids to purchase products at least as much as teach them something.

    Common Core is not "Standards Testing", we have "Standards Testing" already and it's of questionable value (Many teachers will tell you that it's very bad for education and worse now that testing is quarterly at most schools).

    How about reading a bit of actual book from Common Core and then talking, instead of repeating propaganda and claiming other people just "don't understand". Talk to educators that have read the book and understand the material. I have not read the _whole_ book, it's about 4" thick and I made it through about 400 pages so far. I have friends and relatives who are educators, and I trust their perspective on the material more than I trust you repeating what I can find on a propaganda web site.

  • Re: Administrators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:22PM (#47294845)

    Take away all government guarantee such and subsidies for student loans and make the debt dischargeable in bankruptcy and watch the price for college crater over night. It was only 15 years ago I could go to my State college and pay for books and tuition with a summer job.

    Related note. Many or most universities now start Fall semester before labor day. The nasty result of that arrogance has been to make it almost impossible for American students to take a summer job at some ot the traditional places, like the shore. You'd work hard for those three months, but pocket a fair bit of money. NOw you are back in school for the biggest weekend of the summer, so you don't get the job.

    Now? Eastern European college students tend to come over and take those jobs. Whenever I hear one of those charming accents, I'll ask where tehy come from. Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, and the Ukraine are some of the students who probably are paying for their education this way.

    The guaranteeing of loans for anyone with a pulse has allowed demand to basically go to infinity and allowed for the double digit tuition increases. What lender in their right mind would lend an 18 year old 100k with no assets and an out with bankruptcy? This would bring prices back into the land of reason and benefit everyone but the leeching administration email staff and builders of luxury stadiums.

    Yes. But the thing I hate when these things get out of hand is the massive disruption when the correction happens.

    One more side note - they are now talking about actually paying Football players, along with their superior food, housing and "education" they receive free of charge.

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